Conquering guilt: How to enjoy what you’ve earned

Ramit Sethi

If it were up to personal-finance “experts,” we’d never spend a penny on ourselves. We’d save 80% of our income, live in a cardboard box, and wait to take a vacation until we were 65 (“Pack your own lunch and enjoy it even more!”).

As a result, whenever most of us spend money on something we love, we’re bound by a feeling of guilt.

But why should you be guilty for buying the things you love? If you can afford it and you want it, GET IT!

That’s one of the entire premises of IWT: To spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t. Guilt free.

Today, I want to show you a video from one of my premium courses that I’ve never released publicly before: “Enjoy What You Earned, Guilt-Free.” You’ll find out how you can enjoy the things you’ve worked hard to get — without worrying about judgment or guilt.

Click below to watch the video.

All I ask is that after you watch the video, share an example below where you’ve been tempted to feel guilty about spending on something you love.

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  1. Melody

    Loved this video. I’m pretty good about not allowing myself to feel guilty about spending money on the things I enjoy, but I must admit that I sometimes feel guilty spending TIME on the things I enjoy doing. I feel like I could be working or learning something. However, when I do allow myself to break away, I try to engage fully in what I’m doing because I know those moments that I allow myself to do so are few and far between. I’m slowly learning to manage my time in such a way that I spend an allotted amount of time doing specific things, (as you explained in your video re: your calendar), so that if I do want to break away for an afternoon, I can prioritize accordingly in order to leave guilt-free. Thanks for the video!

  2. Cheryl

    I’m actually not really a shopper, so when I want to spend money on things it’s usually a) something I really want b) something I need, but I prefer the much nicer version of it, beyond just filling a need. I learned a long time ago, get it, be done with it, and let my mind go onto the next things that I want to do or learn about.

    As for perfects days: I’ve had many, and like you, mine are based in freedom to choose, or shift things around. Yes, there are always those must do’s, but because most things I have “control” over are already buttoned-down and happening as planned, I maintain a sense of flexibility for myself. I like it like that.

  3. infmom

    Although many members of my family can’t tell the difference between what they want today and what they need tomorrow, I’ve always been inclined to talk myself out of spending money. Back in the 1970s I inherited a small legacy from a beloved family member, put it in a savings account and kept it. I used some of it for a honeymoon trip for my husband and me several years later, but after that, it just stayed in the bank. I eventually moved it to a money-market account where it earned a little more interest.

    It wasn’t till a few years ago that I finally admitted to myself that my relative would have wanted me to use that money on something for myself. I had been buying old broken iPods on eBay and fixing them for myself and my family, and when the battery on my current fixer-upper needed replacement I said “I can afford a new iPod.” It wasn’t easy! But I gritted my teeth and bought a new iPod Touch. And the joy of having that one new thing was incredible.

    Since then, I’ve bought a few more things for myself. Always after a lot of soul-searching and “Do I really need this or is it just something I want rather than need” and research into the best prices and deciding whether to buy last year’s model to save some money. It hasn’t been easy. And I’ve tried to replace the money I spent as fast as I could.

    Yes, having the freedom to choose is a gift.

  4. Michelle

    This was a great video. I recently took three weeks and worked very little during that time. A very close friend who I only see once per year was visiting, and I managed to arrange my business so that I could spend most of the days hanging out with her on the beach, going shopping, and even taking a weekend away to go on a road trip. I did put in five or ten hours per week, but I did not keep up my entire client load; I just told them that I had limited availability for a few weeks.

    Unfortunately, I did have some guilt, but just doing that was a big step. Now I’m back to the grind and planning to take off another couple of weeks around the holidays and again in the spring, this time guilt-free, I hope!

  5. Yvonne

    I like spending hard earned money on my family but do feek guilty sometimes on “splurges” for myself. Like yard sale high end items chinese planters or oriental rugs I really don’t need but like.

    From this time forward I will not do a guilt trip again. Thank you for the reminder.

  6. Jeremy

    I recently replaced my old car with a much nicer, but used, car and couldn’t sleep well for a week due to the guilt I felt over spending so much money on a luxury item for myself. I was able to pay cash, but still struggle with the guilt of not investing that money. Driving it does bring me a lot of joy though!

  7. Erik Marshall

    The question is: what do I not feel guilty about? I like craft beer, and I sometimes feel guilty spending money on a nice beer or a special event at a local brewery. I agree with Melody above, though, about feeling guilty spending TIME on something more than money, as time is truly finite.

  8. Jean

    I felt guilty for buying a tube of YSL lipstick while out with my coworkers and boss one day. When they asked me what I bought and how much it cost they were shocked. My boss even reprimanded me by pointing out that I shouldn’t wear a cheap bag and own $34 lipstick. I could afford the lipstick, my bills were paid and I had margin. I had wanted to purchase the lipstick for some time and decided to. After the scrutiny I felt guilty for buying the lipstick because I was worried my co-workers thought my purchase was ridiculous and that I was ridiculous. I love my YSL lipstick and I didn’t return it even though my coworkers were pressuring me to.

    • Andie

      Good for you, Jean! Lipstick is a personal thing and if that makes you happy, all the more power to you for sticking to your guns. 🙂

  9. Laurel

    Balance for me in the key – I work hard, not just at my “day” job but as a single mom, as a friend, as a member of the community… and then there are all the challenges in finishing everything on my current house remodeling so we can list it Spring 2015 to make my actual dream happen… so when I look at all the money I have spent throughout the month, on necessities (mortgage, insurance, food, utilities, etc.), then everything I have spent on my kids, and the house remodel… what I have for “me” stuff can be pretty slim… so no guilt for me, I look at the overall picture and say “hell yeah, I earned the right to go to lunch at my fave place!!” Great video, thanks Ramit =)

  10. Nathan L

    For me, one of the key ingredients to a rich life is high-quality coffee, and savoring the process of brewing it as much as sipping the results. I’ve been into manual brewing methods (“pour-overs”, aeropress, etc.) for some time now, and about a month ago I decided to upgrade my pour over kettle to a Kalita Wave pot—the list price of which is just shy of $110. Yes: more than $100 to heat and pour water over my coffee grounds in the morning (but, even more precisely than I already could!). Still, I could afford it and I bought it gladly, and have been enjoying it immensely. Though many would see it as a waste or at best find it a ridiculous purchase, for me personally, my new Kalita kettle has tangibly enriched the quality of my life.

  11. Christine

    That’s actually something that I’m pretty good about – if I enjoy something and can afford it, I don’t generally feel guilt for getting/doing it. I just inherited some money – a fairly modest amount, some of which will go into savings – but I’ll definitely use some of it to get the new Kindle Voyage. I could get a Paperwhite (which the Voyage is based on) for $80 less, but since I can afford it, I’ll go with the most advanced version. Just because I want it.

  12. Brandon Holmes

    Thanks for the video, Ramit. I think I can relate to something in all of the comments I have read so far. Personally I agonize over nearly every purchase I make, especially on things like clothing or electronics. I am also really big on buying used. Sometimes I will actually return something I bought because I can’t handle the purchase guilt. Recently I have realized that as a result much of what I own is junk. My lagging computer and aging phone are actually so inefficient that I would save money – not to mention headache and frustration – by upgrading to the latest technology. Slowly this is sinking in, and happily coinciding with a period where I can afford to get the equipment I need.

    Also, and more on a personal satisfaction level, I really love craft beer. Craft beer can also be really expensive, but your advice about becoming rich through practicing abundance rather than pinching pennies on things that make us happy. I’ve personalized it as, “Shi**y beer never made anyone happy or wealthy.” Neither does sipping on a soda while everyone else enjoys a nice glass of hoppy goodness. Now, after a good day’s work, I take the time and spend the money to get something that truly satisfies me. I’ve found that it reinvigorates my drive to crush it the next day, because I know there is a good reward waiting.

  13. John Benzick

    I often thought that I didn’t manage myself based on guilt. I thought that I never felt guilty about much of anything. After watching this video, however, I now think I do manage myself with guilt more than I knew. This video will help me make better personal and professional progress. Thank you.

  14. Richard Kolkovich

    I am with many others in that I mostly guilt-trip myself when I spend time in a non-productive fashion. I have been getting better about analyzing this, though, to remove the guilt. I feel the guilt, and that triggers me to ask, “Are you ENJOYING your use of this time?” This helps me ensure I’m not truly wasting time, but I don’t feel guilty for not working on something “productive” (finding more side work, sharpening my skills, cleaning my baseboards) when it is at least relaxing and/or enjoyable.

    In the past, I have conquered guilt when it comes to quality things. I buy high-quality foods, enjoy (and brew!) craft beer, and buy the best tools I can manage. I live by the mantra: “Life is too short for shitty ____”

  15. Cocoa

    I tend to live a pretty minimalist life. I find a lot of joy and freedom in not having to manage a bunch of possessions but I often feel guilty about the time I spend on activities I really enjoy like yoga for an hour rather than running, which would have a bigger “pay off” as a workout. Or watching a silly movie when I “should” be (fill in the blank). Since time is a finite resource it can be a lot more paralyzing for me to “spend” it than to spend money of which there is always more…the feel guilty that I didn’t call my mom instead of lolling in the sun with a good book.

  16. Lucian

    True balance for me has come in the form of fitness., more specifically Jiu Jitsu. Martial arts and Jiu Jitsu gyms are substantially more expensive than any other globo gym. But for me the cost of classes is a financial investment for something in which the return cannot be expressed in a form of monetization. Jiu Jitsu keeps my life well rounded and is a physical activity that also expands the mind. Some may scoff at the price, I believe I get more out of it than I financially invest.

  17. Randy Martin

    I love to take photos. When I’m traveling, I like to stick around an extra day or two and see the sites. I often feel guilty about spending money for entrance to something I want to photograph or spend an extra night on my dime. My wife makes me feel guilty, so I tend to feel guilty about spending money on things that I enjoy, that my wife does not or doesn’t see as necessary. Sometimes, I just do it anyway!

  18. Josh

    The biggy for me is time more than money. I recently had a day (24 hours) where I did nothing productive – didn’t produce a thing. Watched heaps of TV, read, leisurely meals, coffees.

    Towards the end of the day I felt the ‘I should be doing something’ ping and that leads to guilt in me when left unchecked. This time I reminded myself it’s probably the first time in two months I’d done that and the ridiculousness of feeling weird about doing recharging activities hit me and flooded away any guilt.

    I plan to do more of it!

  19. Andie

    Recently, I used a gift card at Best Buy to buy a new cell phone case. It is a pretty classic flowery one (and… the last one on the shelf). I had to pay a little extra with cash. Silly me, I had to “think” about whether or not I should still purchase the case and almost felt guilty. Then, I reminded myself that I now have 2 jobs and can afford it.

    This may sound trivial to some. But. . . I am SO happy with my new case and seeing it daily. It has been a long time since I have bought anything remotely nice.

    As for my perfect day– it would include swimming (which I do quite often) and playing tennis. It has been awhile since I have played tennis . Therefore, I am going to make it a point to get out to hit some balls before the snow comes in Chicago! 😛

  20. Robb

    Guilt does have a sneaky way of stealing our joy. You’re right, Ramit. You’ve earned it.

    People can talk all they want, but it should ruffle our feathers. It’s just a physiological smokescreen to pull you back to where they’re at. ‘Got to keep moving forward. Thanks for the encouraging video.

    Glad you had time to spend time with Mom!


  21. Jaclyn

    Thanks Ramit. Enjoyed the Tabasco sauce story. I recently bought a pair of shoes that in the past I would have discounted as overpriced and found my way to something more “reasonable.” The feeling I have when I wear these shoes knowing they are amazingly comfortable, a style I love, and exactly what I wanted…feels awesome.

  22. Anita

    Books that I don’t think I need but which will inspire.

  23. Paul Ricken

    Perfect day for me Ramit,
    Wake up at 10.30 AM (I am a afternoon/evening person).
    Read out loud my Mission Statement.
    Drink lukewarm water with halffresh pressed lemon in it.
    Have a great breakfast with my kids.
    Put on football outfit, train for 1.5 hour.
    Eat a post-sports meal.
    Take a nap for 20 minutes.
    Check on my sales, going well and increasing. Online Programs, two books etc.
    Read a book.
    Make a summary.
    Write an article for my blog, inluding PODCAST.
    Have a coaching conversation or work on community connections.
    Eat diner with my kids.
    Put on football outfit and train 1.5 hours.
    Take a shower.
    Watch a movie.
    Make a video for one of my programs.
    Check my Virtual Assistant.
    Dance and sing some. Or talk to God.
    read out loud my Mission Statement.
    Go to bed.

  24. Vic

    Insightful video – thanks, Ramit! Though debt-free, comfortably off, hardworking and childless, I feel guilty about nearly EVERYTHING not essential that costs money (fine food, concert ticket, a workplace $500 handbag I´ll wear to a cost-per-day of less than $1, etc) because my family were refugees and they´ve hardwired themselves and their offspring into perpetual fear of hard times. How does one break that invisible script, especially in times of crisis where it´s not p.c. to just ENJOY life openly?

    • Julia

      Wow VIC, sounds like your talking about me. Shit, maybe you are me….

      I find breaking things down into their “Dollars-per-day of use” amount really helps alleviate the guilt, and makes me choose to buy less but of high quality. This can only be a better way of living. I love it when I get compliments, and even snide comments, about the expensive nature of my hand bag. I always say “I got it in Paris,” while to my self I think “in 2008.”

      Also, I give myself presents for accomplishing things I hate doing, like going to the dentist or taking care of the monthly accounting round-up. Even though I’m powerfully stingy with myself I make off with everything from plants to antique lamps, guilt free commensurate to the pain factor and what I was willing to spend on something I hate. In fact, just back from the dentist and will be procuring an awesome lamp on the morning walk tomorrow!! I’ll have that thing forever, and will forget about the money I spent in about 15 minutes.

  25. Em

    Thanks for a thought-provoking video. The comment that clicked with me had to do with Time.

    I’m self-employed and already do non-working things during the day. Also, travel and work wherever I am. Although I need to improve income, I do spend on what’s important to me.

    It’s Time use where my guilt lies. As Ramit says, this stuff doesn’t happen overnight; change happens over days, weeks, months, years.

    Getting better about not feeling guilty when I sing for an hour during the day, learning new music and improving my singing. But with Ramit’s comment, I will consciously move this to a higher level and, if I decide singing is the best use of my time at 10:00 a.m. or 1:30 p.m., I will do so guilt free. (The truth of the matter is, if I wasn’t singing, it doesn’t mean I’d be doing something else productive, which I think is an important observation.) Thank you, Ramit.

  26. Jen

    The occasional grocery store sushi for breakfast, and this energy drink I like (Roaring Lion Zero, stevia-sweetened!) that I subscribe to (a case a month.) And every day is a perfect day. (OK, I am sitting in my summer office on the deck by the pool, and I design and make iOS and internet-of-things systems, so it’s not a boring job.) Still. Even during a perfect day, you gotta do the dishes; best to just decide that experience is going to be perfect too.

  27. Tsukiko Spark

    My perfect day is a day where I start with a good gym practice followed by a long relaxing warm bath.
    After that sitting until noon to write my books, and then lunch with a good friend, and then continue writing.
    Before picking up my kids manage to clean and order the house so it will be habitable.
    Then having lots of energy to enjoy quality time with my kids.
    When they go to sleep, write some more.
    After that go out with husby on a date (babysitter watching over the sleeping all through the night kids)
    After the date return home…some romantic time, and then go to sleep for 8 hours.
    Besides that there is only 24 hours per day, it looks fair enough for me:)

    p.s: I know lots of people who would LOOOVE adding more hours for a day – We just need to unite!:)

  28. Karen

    I struggle with guilt when I buy things that I don’t strictly need. I think my parents’ attitude to money did that to me! Recently I bought a new handbag, a thing of beauty, because my husband absolutely insisted (he knew how much I wanted it). It brings me so much pleasure wearing it, and I’m trying to focus on that rather than feeling guilty.

    As for the one thing I’ll do this month toward my perfect day, I’m just going to go and write 100 words of fiction before bed, because nothing brings me more joy than getting published, and it can’t get published if I haven’t written it yet!

  29. Mike

    Like many above, time is the resource I feel most guilty about “wasting”. I went for two runs this weekend, 7 and 5 miles on Saturday and Sunday respectively. I had to talk myself into going both days, not because I was tired or (insert exercise-excuse here), but because I felt guilty about the time I’d be running.

    My question (given that I have just found this site and am doing a HUGE examination of my life/work/etc.): Have I been doing enough with my other time to earn and enjoy the time I do spend running?

    Which leads to me the one thing I will do that will lead to more perfect days; I will optimize my credit cards according to the strategy laid out on page 48 of IWTYTBR.

  30. Erika

    I have myself so locked into scheduled events that sometimes I’m inflexible as far as doing new things. I have a friend who sends me lots of opportunities to try new stuff and she says she loves the fact that I’m usually into it but lately I’ve been backing away because I’m too tired or need some time to myself. I do indulge myself with stuff that money can buy but waste a lot of time that I could spend with others. That’s usually the best time spent, with friends. Recently I set up a series of parties at my house where people cook and eat together. One a month. And I hired a house cleaner. I guess it is different for everyone. I now fly first class when I travel. I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor but still economize in certain areas.

  31. Claudia Campuzano

    I am sophomore in college majoring in Finance… I’ve always had this problem. Whenever I have some money and I want/need something I first ask my parents (I am still dependable on my parents) if they have some extra money before I even consider spending my own money. Most times I end up not buying that one thing because I don’t want to spend my money. This is one of the many reasons why my parents thought I would be a good idea for me to major in Finance, and I agreed since I am awesome with money and I only waste money on the most essential things.

  32. Shayna


    While living in NYC and earning just $28K/year, I still managed to take three international trips in three years.

    I’ve never owned a car and I don’t spend tons of money on clothes, entertainment, etc. (just not my thing). Always made very conscious decisions with my budget and priorities, yet people see the travel and say “You’re so lucky.” NO.

  33. Fel

    I used to feel guilty about buying ANYTHING–even a pack of GUM. My favorite things to splurge on now are travel, beautiful clothes, and taking care of myself. And for anyone reading, Success Triggers is one of Ramit’s courses I revisit multiple times a year. It’s so good.

  34. Guillermo

    Sometimes it is just an imperceptible postponement..
    Maybe later.
    Next time.
    Or the dreaded “some day”.
    There’s a list.
    One example of a thing that i learned not to be cheap on is a fine bottle of wine.
    We only live now, don’t we?

  35. Jill

    I agree, we only live now, but most people take it to an extreme and use that line to blow whatever little amount of money they do have.

  36. Brittany

    I feel guilty about concerts. Most of my friends aren’t as passionate about music as I am, so they never understand why I’d spend -x- amount of dollars on a show. I very rarely go out to movies, to me it is just as nice to watch them at home. I would rather save that money and spend it going to a good show. I also travel around the region to see various indie bands, and that, to some folks, is even worse 🙂 but, music just gives me life in a way that nothing else can… if it’s between food or music, unless I am dying, I choose music.

  37. Noach

    I feel guilty every time I spend money on anything. It could be a beer, a 15$ book, or a pair of shoes that I truly do need. Objectively, it makes no sense. I work very hard for my money ( I work almost 60+ hours a week), all of my bills are paid, I help my mother financially, and I have no credit card debt. However, whenever I do end up buying something for myself that I truly enjoy, the guilt just wafts over me for days and days. How does one make the mental shift from a place of guilt to a place of enjoyment with the fruits of one’s labor?